MBA Career Advice: Networking for Pre-MBAs, Part 1

In this weekly series, our friends at MBA Career Coaches will be dispensing invaluable advice to help you actively manage your career. Topics include building your network, learning from mistakes and setbacks, perfecting your written communication, and mastering even the toughest interviews.

If you are headed to business school this fall, your life is about to change in a big way. Right now, you are surrounded by professional colleagues, mentors, and champions—people who have supported you throughout your career and have helped you get to where you are. You are embedded within your company’s network. Will those connections diminish while you are in business school? You are going to be very busy, and keeping in touch will not be easy, no matter how well-intentioned you are. But you have an opportunity to nurture these connections now so that they persist even after you are in a different city doing different work. This is important even if you plan to transition into a different industry in a different location. The world is round; you never know which relationships will come back around to be important.

Before you leave, seek to establish meaningful contact with everyone you have known in your job to date so that those relationships will last.

Make a list of all the people who fit into one of these categories:

  • Supervisors, mentors, champions, and advocates
  • Collaborators, peers, and colleagues
  • Subordinates and people you managed
  • Important clients and external service providers
  • People with whom you did not work directly but who helped you at some point
  • People you wish you had gotten to know better
  • Anyone else who comes to mind as someone with whom you want to stay connected

Give those people your personal email address and let them know how to reach you in the future. Connecting on LinkedIn is also a good idea. But these small steps are not enough. They will not deepen the relationship. Real relationships require a personal touch.

As for the most important people on your list, schedule appointments to meet with each of them, preferably outside of the office. Why outside? Well, the professional aspect of your relationship is ending, and if you are going to keep the connection alive, you will have to create a personal connection. Doing so will be harder if you are in a “strictly business” setting, so move thing into a new environment.

Next week, we will discuss what to accomplish during your coffee chats and lunches.

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